Home > In Between (Love is Love #3)

In Between (Love is Love #3)
Author: Andi Jaxon

 

Dedication

This book is for anyone who has been looked down upon because of what you look like. This book is for the people that stand with you and love you.

 

 

Trigger Warning Note

 

 

This story contains content that may be triggering to readers, such as homophobia and the usage of specific racial slurs. Please consider not reading this book if any of these issues deem harmful to you enjoying this book. For a full list of triggering content that may be included in this book, please see my website.

 

 

Author’s Note

 

 

To say that this book scared me, is putting it mildly. I agonized over this story. I cried, had panic attacks, said I wasn’t going to publish it more times that I can count. Even right now, I’m halfway down the spiral of a panic attack. Writing a character that is from a different culture than me was intimidating to say the least. I wanted to make sure I did him and his family justice and I have worked so hard to make sure that I did. The blatant racism Julian faces made me nauseous to type out but it was necessary for the story.

More work has gone into editing this story than any of the ones before it. Not only the beta readers, editor, and proofreaders, but two sensitivity readers and my real life cohort all read and gave me feedback. AJ put up with my random and sometimes ridiculous questions, she even let me use some of her family’s stories to bring life to Julian’s family. She was the second person to see the book and give me feedback and helped me rework some scenes.

I worked incredibly hard to tell a story with the utmost respect to a culture that is different from mine. It was so important to me to honor the people I was writing about and after much blood, sweat, and tears, I think I’ve done that.

I can’t thank my sensitivity readers enough for their insight, lessons, candid conversations, and compassion. This story would not be in the shape it is without you. I will be eternally thankful for you.

While reading this book, please remember that not one story encompasses everyone’s experiences. This is one story out of millions. I hope you love Julian, Dylan, and Mary as much as I do.

 

 

Prologue

 

 

Julian


I don’t want to be here.

Sitting in the damn sun, in fancy damn clothes, listening to a preacher talk about my cousin like he knew him. He didn’t know Trey. He’s a damn stranger. I knew Trey. He was my cousin. My best friend.

And now I have nothing. No one.

It’s been a week since the world flipped upside down. Since the emptiness in my chest settled in and won’t let go. Pain and numbness fight for dominance every minute of every day, giving me whiplash while I’m standing still.

Cold, deep agony courses through me as my auntie starts wailing.

“Please, Jesus! Don’t take my baby!” Her pain is palpable. Not one person in this place doesn’t feel her anguish to the marrow of their bones.

My chest aches, sharp but dull, the muscles tight while something pierces my body that no one can see. I can’t breathe, but I can’t cry either. The tears just won’t come. They keep building and building, and I’m starting to fear for when they will eventually spill over. Nothing eases it or makes it worse. It’s just there all the time. I can’t sleep or drum up the energy to care about anything except the pain.

Auntie Lo, Trey’s momma, sits with GranMomma, weeping and yelling to Jesus to bring back her baby. Doesn’t she know he ain’t listening? God don’t care about us. There’s no way he can’t hear her. Her cries carry on the wind, and I swear the entire city below us can hear her. The sound of her life shattering will haunt me. It already circles my brain when it’s quiet and I’m staring at the ceiling.

Does she blame me for not moving fast enough? Not stopping him from stepping out in front of the fucking pickup? I do. I should have saved him. I was right there. And at that moment, I was frozen. My mind was screaming to move, to yell, to do something, but my body wouldn’t respond. Like trying to run through cold molasses. The thud of his body hitting the truck and the asphalt, the screeching of tires, and his body crumpled on the ground with his neck at a weird angle is all I see when I close my eyes. My failure to protect him.

If God cared, Trey would still be here, and the drunk fuck who ran him over wouldn’t be. It ain’t fair. He was eighteen with a basketball scholarship, getting ready to move into the dorms, and completely obsessed with his girl when his life just ended. That drunk fuck got a slap on the wrist while I’m sitting here with my family, burying my best friend. If it had been reversed, and Trey was the one in the truck, he would get life in prison, and that guy’s family would be all over the fucking news.

Pain claws at my insides as the casket is lowered into the ground, but I still don’t cry. I can’t. I’m both numb and in so much pain it’s stolen my breath. The emotions war within me, and at some point, I’m going to snap. Someday soon, it will be too much, and I won’t be able to hold it back anymore. I can only hope it’s not released on some innocent victim, but at this point, I don’t even care about that either.

How am I supposed to go on without him? I’ve never lived without Trey. Ever. We were family. Blood. Inseparable. Now I’m alone, and I don’t know what to do with it. He’s who I would talk to if I had a problem. Trey was always there. A part of my life is missing, and it fucking hurts. I’m drowning, and I don’t know how to swim. There is no life raft to cling to while I wait for someone to save me.

I’m barely treading water, and one day very soon, I’m going to surrender to the current of agony and suffocate.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Julian


Around here, people light fires in the woods for fun.

What the hell kind of shit is that? Why are you even in the woods at night? This is some stupid white people shit. There are wolves and bears and shit out here. Black people get lynched in woods like this.

So if this is stupid, why the fuck am I doing it? Because Momma heard the sheriff telling his kid not to cause trouble with the football players at the bonfire tonight, so she told me to go meet the kids I’ll play with or she’ll whoop my ass. So here I fucking am, sweating my balls off at nine o’clock on a Saturday night. I’m walking along a fucking dirt road with no lights toward a fire. How are any of these people still alive? This is how you die. Have these assholes never seen a slasher flick?

Cars are parked on the sides of the road. Not too many people are walking around where I’m at, but I can see a bunch of people up ahead, and the bright flames of a fire filtering through the trees. As I make it to the clearing where everyone is hanging around, one kid about my age steps forward and starts hollering.

“A’right. E’eryone shut up.” The crowd quiets down, and an older man makes his way through the sea of teenagers. “It’s Coach’s last year with us. He’s retirin’.” The crowd claps and falls quiet.

“So I figur’d we’d have his last year start with a bang.”

Awareness tingles up my neck, and I scan the crowd. It’s mostly guys with a handful of girls around the edges of the group. This is supposed to be football players, but there’s a mix of teenagers and adults, so maybe it was anyone this guy coached for?

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